Thursday, December 12, 2013

Understanding God's Will: Intro Part 1

            This is a huge section that I posted on my other blog,  But I think it bears repeating.  Like most Christians, I have struggled long and hard with trying to understand God’s Will.  I went through years of stress when I was seeking His Will about buying our first home.  (I wrote all about this in the "Child of Mine" posts on the other blog.)  I was terrified of missing His Will. 
            But after that whole time was over, I delved deeply into the Bible to learn what it says about His Will.  And it changed my view.  The bottom line is I wasted a lot of time and energy worrying needlessly. 

            I don’t need to worry about “missing His Will,” as long as I am abiding in Him, sensitive to Him, and living obediently.  Because if I focus on this (instead of on finding “the next step”), things will become clear as I walk with Him. 
            This series here compiles what I have learned about His Will in general, the things I didn’t really know before.  But I think they are precious truths worth exploring, worth applying to our lives.  But I need to say this up front: I am no expert in “God’s Will” or in how He works or what the Bible says.  I can only tell you what I think and believe at this point in my life.  And that could change.  There could be a Bible verse that I didn’t know about that could alter my view.  God’s ways are a mystery.  And ironically, they become more mysterious the longer I walk with Him.  But this is how I understand it now. 
            And despite the fact that I seem to have a lot of answers here, I also have my fair share of unanswered questions and doubts still.  We will always have deep, hidden doubts and fears, even as Christians.  (While I may have doubts and questions about how God acts and moves and answers prayer, I do not have any doubts about God’s existence or love.  I’ve come too far to doubt that anymore.)  It is normal to have doubts and unanswered questions.  The key is to be honest with the Lord about them and to let them drive us closer to Him.  The more we do this, the more we will grow in our confidence and faith, and the more we will learn to seek refuge in Him when other doubts spring up.     
            Anyway, what I want to look at in this series is how we view God’s Will versus how I think the Bible portrays God’s Will.  I think that there is so much confusion over this, because we have grown up with so many pat answers and assumptions about what it is and about how God works.  And I think that this is why “Finding His Will” about a house was so stressful for me.  Not only were there lots of expectations, misplaced hopes, and fears, but there were also many misconceptions about what “His Will” is and how to find it.  And it wasn’t until after this whole time period that I began to see it more clearly.  If I had known then what I know now, it wouldn’t have been so painful and stressful for me.  But . . . that’s life!
            I want to start by looking at these two examples from my life: a job that I got and the first home we rented. 
            Just after my internship as a counselor, I was looking for a part-time job.  I could only work a handful of hours a week since I had a toddler.  And they needed to be evening hours so that I could work when my husband, Jason, was home.
            As I interviewed for a position, the interviewer assured me that I could do almost all the work in the evening and that there would be minimal interruption during the day.  And I asked several times to make sure.  As I considered all the facts, everything sounded pretty reasonable.  All I had against it was this tiny, little nagging sense that I wasn’t running it all past God.  It was just a hint of a feeling that something wasn’t right, that I was going off in my own wisdom, and that God might actually want me to say “no,” or to at least slow down and pray and wait for guidance.  But the details all seemed right, and I couldn’t see any real reason not to take it.  And I needed the job (or I thought I did).  It was an open door, so it must be God’s Will, right? 
            Well, it was a few weeks after I got the job that I learned that it was very disruptive to my day.  This was a crisis-management counseling position, and so I had to be there when called upon.  And I was called upon at all hours of the day, several times a week.  I had to drop everything and ask my husband to come home from work so that I could attend staff meetings with the teens in the hospitals, sometimes up to an hour away. 
            I only made it four months before burning out and needing to find a new job.  Had I just slowed down and listened to that still, small voice (which I didn’t really recognize as the Holy Spirit at the time), I would have been spared a lot of trouble.  Thankfully, God allowed me to find a much more convenient part-time job after that, a position that opened up just as I was leaving the other one.  He is sovereign! 
            But, you might be wondering, maybe all this was God’s Will?  Maybe He planned it all to happen that way to get me into that second position?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I had the sense that I was rushing ahead of God, and yet I didn’t listen.  I believe that He might have had a different plan in mind, but I missed it with my hasty choice.  He, however, took my mistake and worked it into a new plan.   
            And another time that I made a hasty choice was in regards to the first house that we rented.  We were in an apartment out by my grad school, but we were looking to move back home by Jason’s work.  My mom and step-dad at the time, Bob, owned some rental houses there.  And Bob called me up one day and offered to rent a house out to us.  Something inside (or Someone) said, “Wait!  Check it out first.”  But I didn’t listen.  My reasoning said, “He’s my step-father.  Of course he wouldn’t rent out to me something that wasn’t fit for us.  I’ll just have faith that God brought this because it’s for the best.”
            Well, after we said “Yes” and made plans to move, we got to see this home.  And we were horrified.  It was disgusting and filthy.  It reeked of animal pee, the carpet was soiled, and there were fleas and mice poop all over.  (We had to bomb it three times for fleas.  And I was eight months pregnant.)  And it was like a fun house at a carnival, with walls ever-so-slightly slanted this way and that.  And it was tiny, tiny, tiny.  It was so filthy that we had to live with my parents for a month so that it could get fixed up enough to not be a health hazard.  (Bob hadn’t really kept watch on the previous renters, so he didn’t even really know what condition it was in.)
            And then, as house prices rose and we had a second child and I decided to stay home and we couldn’t make enough money to move up, we got stuck in that house for several very unhappy, very depressing years.  Thankfully, God eventually moved us to a better place (the two-bedroom rental that became moldy later), but I wonder how things might have turned out had I listened to the Spirit’s quiet nudges or took the time to pray.  We might have been able to bypass the whole mold-pit if we had prayed and listened in the first place.  Was the path that we took God’s Will for us, His preplanned path, to get us to where we are now?  Or did we have some responsibility for what happened and where we ended up, especially since I knew that we didn’t seek God’s advice in the first place?  

Posts in this "Understanding God's Will" series: